A new independent shop has begun trading in Shaftesbury town centre and its opening extends the range of services available on the High Street.
JOT Carpets and Flooring is now operating from the recently refurbished former antique store near the top of Tout Hill. It’s a family venture owned by Jeremy and Debbie Witcombe and their 22-year-old son Jack. Jack’s initials form the name of the new company but he insists that his father is the boss!
Jeremy Witcombe has been laying carpets and flooring in and around Frome for 35 years. He’s encouraged Jack to learn the trade by carpeting small spaces, such as van interiors. Now a fully-fledged fitter, Jack says he’s excited to be taking the business further with his family.
“This is our first shop and I think it is good that we’ve gone into this together. I don’t think dad would have opened a shop if I didn’t do the flooring too.” Jack believes that a team approach will take some of the pressure off his father.
The family live in Frome and will continue to commute from Somerset although Debbie says they all know Shaftesbury well. Her father lives in Gillingham and her mum is a Wimborne resident. Debbie says the family has spent a lot of time visiting cafés and pubs in Shaftesbury. “We have a connection here,” she says.
They chose Shaftesbury because they recognised that our High Street was vibrant and filled with independent stores, but there wasn’t a town centre carpet shop. Although Shaftesbury has experienced some recent shop closures there are still few fewer vacant units here compared with nearby towns.
It has become a local topic for discussion but Debbie is not perturbed by this week’s news of troubled national retailers House Of Fraser and Poundworld. “I’m not worried at all,” says Debbie. “As soon as a shop closes, people worry. Our shops have closed in Frome and then something else comes along and opens up.” She adds that it’s how things are now.
Debbie reckons local retailers have the edge over online sellers. Her research has suggested that Shaftesbury shoppers prefer personal contact. “In Shaftesbury they like dealing with people and seeing what they can get,” she says.
Jack says he’s already noticed that people here seem to favour traditional materials. “They seem to like the more expensive material like wool carpet, which is better quality,” he says. JOT Carpets will supply whatever type of flooring customers ask for. Debbie interjects, “I wasn’t particularly looking at the high end of the market.”
The family rang up their first sale within hours of opening on Thursday. “A chap came in for a nursery carpet. We went around and measured up and sold the carpet. We’re fitting it next week for him,” Debbie said.
Jack offers some words of encouragement to people his age who would like to start their own business. “If you have ambitions to open a shop, then get on with it,” he says. And his advice is, “work hard, and go on from there.”